Monday, 16 July 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 22 July 2018,
Eighth Sunday after Trinity,
Saint Mary Magdalene

He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while’ (Mark 6: 31) … (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday next, 22 July 2018, is the Eighth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity VIII). The appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for Trinity VIII as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland are:

Continuous readings: II Samuel 7: 1-14a; Psalm 89: 20-37; Ephesians 2: 11-22; Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56.

Paired readings: Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2: 11-22; Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56.

There is a link to the continuous readings HERE.

Sunday is also the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene (22 July 2018), when the appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland are:

Song of Solomon 3: 1-4; Psalm 42: 1-10; II Corinthians 5: 14-17; John 20: 1-2, 11-18.

There is a link to these readings HERE.

Trinity VIII:

Christ ‘has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us’ … flowers on a wall at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

II Samuel 7: 1-14a

King David has been installed as king in Jerusalem, and is secure living in a palace built of cedar, then regarded as the best building material of the time. But David is conscious that while he is living in a lavish house, the Ark of God remains in a tent.

David consults his court prophet, Nathan, and confides in him his plan to build a temple for the Ark. Nathan agrees, but that night in a vision God tells Nathan to bring a message to David.

Nathan is to tell David that he is not the person to build a temple for God. Ever since the Exodus, God has not had a temple, nor has he ever asked for one.

Nathan is to remind David how God raised him from being a shepherd boy to being king, that God has always been with him wherever he goes, and he has defeated all his enemies. There are more promises to follow: God will also give his people a settled life, peace and security, and he will make David the founder of a royal ‘house’ or dynasty, and David’s kingdom will be God’s for ever.

There is an interesting play on words here: the word ‘house’ (bayith in Hebrew) refers to:

● a palace (verse 1),
● a temple (verse 4),
● a dynasty or royal house (verses 11 and 13).

This chapter is important for Christological reasons. God is soon to make a covenant with David. Chapter 7 connects all that has gone before with all that is about to come after.

God’s next covenant is with David and is a commitment to bringing about a kingdom and a dynasty among his descendants. A short-sighted interpretation would limit these promises to David and Solomon before the fall of the kingdom. But as Saint Paul makes clear, the great rule of David’s dynasty is completed in Christ Jesus and is a kingdom for Jew and Gentile alike (see Romans 1: 1-6).

The first Christians believed that Christ is the ‘Son of David’ and that through him they were the heirs to this promise to David.

Psalm 89: 20-37:

Psalm 89 recalls how God spoke to David through his words with the Prophet Nathan in our Old Testament reading (Psalm 89: 19).

Sunday’s portion of Psalm 89 recalls how God anointed David as his regent, and God will be constant in his love for him. Through God, David will be victorious, he will rule from the sea to the river (verse 25), from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia. David will acknowledge God as Father, and God will adopt him as his firstborn. David will be closer to God than any other king, no matter what he and his descendants do. David’s line will continue forever, as the moon endures in the heavens (verse 37).

‘You are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone’ (Ephesians 2: 19-20) … the cross on a corner stone in the church in Vlatadon Monastery in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Ephesians 2: 11-22:

The theme of the house of God is taken up by Saint Paul again in the New Testament reading (Ephesians 2: 11-22). Here Saint Paul reminds us that Jews and Gentiles are both heirs to the Covenants God has made in the past, which would include God’s covenant with David in II Samuel 7.

But the true Temple is not the one David had a vision for, or the one built by Solomon. It is a Temple that is ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone’ (verse 20).

This is the household of God, in which we are citizens with the saints and full members, regardless of whether we are Jews or Gentiles. We were once aliens and strangers, but now we are all insiders, full members of the household of God, because of God’s love for us.

Christ, the head and the cornerstone, along with the Church, the body and the foundation, replace the physical Temple in Jerusalem that David wanted to built. Now cultural differences are no longer relevant. What matters now is that we are ‘one new humanity’ (verse 15). The old divisions are gone, and Christ brings us together ‘in one body’ (verse 16). This is a message of peace in a divided, broken, divided and sinful world (verse 14).

Think about how the word ‘house’ is used in our Old Testament reading. The words used in the Epistle reading for household, οἰκεῖος (oikeios), and for building, οἰκοδομή (oikodomí), are from the same root as the word that gives us ecumenism. Our ecumenism, our ecumenical endeavours, our seeking for common ground in mission and ministry, in sacrament and in service, seek to draw us into one family, one household, where Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone.

But this is a household at the service of the many. Saint Paul tells us we are being grown into a holy temple, into a dwelling-place for God. And when I think of that Temple, I think not just of David’s vision for building a Temple in our first reading, but the vision of the Temple in Revelation, when ‘people will bring into it the glory and honour of the nations’ (Revelation 21: 22-26).

That is the glory we should be seeking, that is the honour that we should be seeking, and it is the task of the Church as servant, in its ministry, not to see that you and I sit at the right and left hand of glory, but that as servants we bring the needs of the world, the needs of the nations, to the Church, and bring the hurch to serve the needs of the many.

‘When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat’ (Mark 6: 53) … a moored boat in the harbour in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56:

On the Sunday before last (8 July 2018), we read earlier in this chapter (Mark 6: 1-13) how Christ sent out the disciples, two-by-two, giving them authority over all that is evil in the world. Saint Mark’s narrative then diverted briefly last Sunday (15 July 2018) to the story of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist (Mark 6: 14-29). Now, Saint Mark returns to the main story (Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56).

The Lectionary portion next Sunday omits the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (verses 35-52). Instead, the feeding of the multitude is the story in the Gospel reading from Saint John’s Gospel the following Sunday (John 6: 1-21). But it is worth mentioning here that each of Saint Mark’s feeding miracles is joined with a water miracle, evoking the Exodus stories, including God parting the waters (Exodus 14: 19-31) and God feeding the people in the wilderness (Exodus 16: 31-21), and the disciples’ misunderstanding is a serious condition, akin to Pharaoh’s misunderstanding that is linked to his oppression of the enslaved people (see Exodus 7 to 11).

In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Christ debriefs the disciples after their return, having been sent out (verse 30). In Mark 3: 20, Christ has no time to eat, and now neither do the disciples (verse 32), such is Christ’s popularity as a healer and a wonder-worker.

Saint Mark puts his emphasis here on the crowd: many people recognise Christ and the disciples (verses 33, 55), they hurry to meet them as they disembark from boat, and Christ has compassion for them, for they are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (verse 34). They bring the sick with them, and beg Jesus to heal them (verse 56). He has compassion on them, begins to teach them, and heals the sick.

In the midst of all this, the disciples are on a boat on their way to Bethsaida when they are caught in a storm on the lake. Jesus walks on the water, calms their fears and shows his divine power – in this case over the stormy, choppy seas (verses 45-52).

The fringes on Christ’s cloak (verse 56) are the blue threads (tzitzit that show how he obeys God’s commandments: Israelite men were to wear fringes at the corners of their cloaks (see Numbers 15: 37-40; Deuteronomy 22: 12). In touching his cloak, the sick people are making him ritually unclean, but those who touch him are healed. In the following chapter, Saint Mark shows how the religious authorities are more concerned with legalistic ritual purity than with the needs of the common people, and how in touching Christ they are ‘touched’ by God’s power.

But as with our reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the call is to all, Christ breaks down all barriers, and we are all invited to be part of the household of God, to enter his holy Temple, which is ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.’

When they got out of the boat, people at once recognised him (Mark 6: 54) … a replica of a fishing boat in a restaurant in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56 (NRSV):

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognised them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognised him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

‘Noli me Tangere’, by Mikhail Damaskinos, ca 1585-1591, in the Museum of Christian Art in the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Mary Magdalene (22 July 2018):


A new biblical drama film, Mary Magdalene was released earlier this year [2018]. The script is by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett, the film was directed by Garth Davis, and it stars Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene, Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus Christ, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Saint Peter and Tahar Rahim as Judas.

The film had its world premiere at the National Gallery, London, on 26 February 2018, was screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival on 28 February 2018, and was released in Britain on 16 March 2018.

In a review in the Guardian [27 February 2018], Peter Bradshaw said the movie ‘sets itself a bold task: to rescue Mary Magdalene from an age-old tradition of patriarchal condescension and misinterpretation. And yet it winds up embracing a solemn, softly-spoken and slow-moving Christian piety of its own.’

Of course, Mary Magdalene was an intimate witness to some of the most important events in the life of Christ, including his Crucifixion, burial and Resurrection. But she has been wrongly recast in popular tradition as a ‘fallen woman’ and ‘prostitute.’

Saint Mary Magdalene mentioned by name 12 times in the canonical gospels, more than most of the apostles. Her epithet Magdalene most likely means that she came from the town of Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

In the Middle Ages, Mary Magdalene was conflated in western tradition with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed ‘sinful woman’ who anoints Jesus’s feet (see Luke 7: 36-50), resulting in a widespread but inaccurate belief that she was a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman.

This caricature of Mary Magdalene probably reached its low point in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar with Mary’s song ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him,’ with its startling lines: ‘He’s a man, he’s just a man, and I’ve had so many men before, in very many ways …’

The feast of Saint Mary Magdalene next Sunday may also offer an opportunity to address the way many women were treated in the past in the ‘Magdalene Laundries’ in Ireland.

John 20: 1-2, 11-18:

Early on the Sunday morning (‘the first day of the week’) after the Crucifixion, before dawn, Mary Magdalene, who has been a witness to Christ’s death and burial, comes to the tomb and finds that the stone has been rolled away.

Initially it seems she is on her own, for she alone is named. But later she describes her experiences using the word ‘we,’ which indicates she was with other women.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, these women are known as the Holy Myrrh-bearers (Μυροφόροι). The Myrrh-bearers are traditionally listed as: Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, Martha of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod Antipas, and Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and Susanna, although it is generally said that there are other Myrrh-bearers whose names are not known.

Mary and these women run to tell Saint Peter and the other disciple – presumably Saint John the Evangelist – that they suspect someone has removed Christ’s body. The ‘other disciple’ may have been younger and fitter, for he outruns Saint Peter. The tidy way the linen wrappings and the shroud have been folded or rolled up shows that the body has not been stolen. They believe, yet they do not understand; they return home without any explanations.

But Mary still thinks Christ’s body has been removed or stolen, and she returns to the grave. In her grief, she sees ‘two angels in white’ sitting where the body had been lying, one at the head, and one at the feet. They speak to her and then she turns around sees Christ, but only recognises him when he calls her by name.

Saint Peter and Saint John have returned without seeing the Risen Lord. It is left to Mary to tell the Disciples that she has seen the Lord. Mary Magdalene is the first witness of the Resurrection.

All four gospels are unanimous in telling us that the women are the earliest witnesses to the Risen Christ. In Saint John’s Gospel, the Risen Christ sends Mary Magdalene to tell the other disciples what she had seen. Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles.

The word apostle comes from the Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstólos), formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, ‘from’) and the root στέλλω (stéllō, ‘I send,’ ‘I depart’). So, the Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstolos) or apostle means one sent.

In addition, at the end of the reading (verse 18), Mary comes announcing what she has seen. The word used here (ἀγγέλλουσα, angéllousa) is from the word that gives us the Annunciation, the proclamation of the good news, the proclamation of the Gospel (Εὐαγγέλιον, Evangélion).

Mary, in her proclamation of the Gospel of the Resurrection, is not only the apostle to the apostles, but she is also the first of the evangelists.

In Saint John’s Gospel, when Mary first sees Christ, she does not recognise him. In this reading, the Greek is regularly phrased in the present tense: Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb (verse 1), she sees (verse 1), she runs, she comes, and she says (verse 2); John sees (verse 5), Simon Peter then comes, and he sees (verse 6); Mary sees the two angels (verse 12), they say to her and she says to them that she does not know (verse 13); she then sees Jesus (verse 14); Jesus says to her (verse 15, and again verses 16 and 17) – notice this is three times in all; and she then comes announcing what she has seen and heard.

The language is constantly punctuated with the word ‘and,’ giving it a rapid, fast-moving pace, rather like the pace in Saint Mark’s Gospel. This is a present, real, living experience for all involved, and not one single episode that be relegated to the past.

The Risen Christ does things he did not do before: he appears in locked rooms, there is something different about his appearance, his friends do not realise immediately who he is. This is the same Jesus, but something has changed.

Why does Jesus tell Mary (verse 17): ‘Do not hold onto me’ (Μή μου ἅπτου, Noli me tangere)?

How do we recognise new life in the Risen Christ?

How do we understand the invitation from the Risen Christ to feast with him?

When we accept the new life Christ offers, how does our vision change?

Where do we see the presence of the Risen Christ?

Do we see his presence in the people and places we like and that please us?

Can we see him in the people we do not like and in the situations we find challenging? – the hungry child, the fleeing refugee, the begging person on the street, the homeless addict sleeping on the street or in the doorway?

Is my heart changed by the Risen Christ?

Where do I see the broken and bruised Body of Christ needing restoration and Resurrection?

Do I know him in the word he speaks to me and in the breaking of the bread?

Is the presence of the Risen Christ a living experience for us this morning?

Can Easter be an every-morning, every-day, living experience for us?

The women at the tomb … a stained glass window in Saint Ann’s Church, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 20: 1-2, 11-18 (NRSV):

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

‘Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands that holy things have taken’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical Resources (Trinity VIII):

Liturgical colour: Green


Blessed are you, O Lord,
and blessed are those who observe and keep your law:
Help us to seek you with our whole heart,
to delight in your commandments
and to walk in the glorious liberty
given us by your Son, Jesus Christ.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that holy things have taken;
may the ears which have heard your word
be deaf to clamour and dispute;
may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;
may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love
shine with the light of hope;
and may the bodies which have been fed with your body
be refreshed with the fulness of your life;
glory to you for ever.

Early on the first day of the week … Mary Magdalene came to the tomb (John 20: 1) – a window in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources (Saint Mary Magdalene):

Liturgical colour: White


Almighty God,
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene
to health of mind and body
and called her to be a witness to his resurrection:
Forgive our sins and heal us by your grace,
that we may serve you in the power of his risen life;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Penitential Kyries:

Lord, you are gracious and compassionate.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You are loving to all.
and your mercy is over all creation. Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your faithful servants bless your name,
and speak of the glory of your kingdom.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Introduction to the Peace:

We are fellow-citizens with the saints,
and of the household of God,
through Christ our Lord,
who came and preached to those who were far off
and those who were near. (Ephesians 2: 19, 17)


In the saints
you have given us an example of godly living,
that, rejoicing in their fellowship,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
and with them receive the unfading crown of glory:

Post-Communion Prayer:

God of life and love,
whose risen Son called Mary Magdalene by name
and sent her to tell of his resurrection to his apostles:
In your mercy, help us,
who have been united with him in this Eucharist,
to proclaim the good news
that he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


God give you the grace
to share in the inheritance of Saint Mary Magdalene and of his saints in glory:

Suggested Hymns (Trinity VIII):

The hymns suggested for Proper 11 (Year B) in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

II Samuel 7: 1-14a:

342, Sweet is the solemn voice that calls
73, The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended
343, We love the place, O God

Psalm 89: 20-37:

670, Come, worship God who is worthy of honour
2, Faithful one, so unchanging
668, God is our fortress and our rock
557, Rock of ages, cleft for me

Jeremiah 23: 1-6:

250, All hail the power of Jesus’ name
135, O come, O come, Emmanuel
442, Praise the Lord, rise up rejoicing
197, Songs of thankfulness and praise
323, The God of Abraham praise
20, The King of love my shepherd is

Psalm 23:

644, Faithful Shepherd, feed me
645, Father, hear the prayer we offer
466, Here from all nations, all tongues, and all peoples
467, How bright those glorious spirits shine
655, Loving Shepherd of your sheep
433, My God, your table here is spread
235, O sacred head, sore wounded
365, Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the King of creation
20, The King of love my shepherd is
21, The Lord’s my shepherd; I’ll not want
448, The trumpets sound, the angels sing

Ephesians 2: 11-22:

326, Blessèd city, heavenly Salem (Christ is made the sure foundation)
327, Christ is our corner–stone
87, Christ is the world’s light, he and none other
501, Christ is the world’s true light
421, I come with joy, a child of God
522, In Christ there is no east or west
306, O Spirit of the living God
675, Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
507, Put peace into each other’s hands
340, Sing and be glad, for this is God’s house!
528, The Church’s one foundation
313, The Spirit came, as promised
493, Ye that know the Lord is gracious

Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56:

211, Immortal love for ever full
513, O Christ, the healer, we have come
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing

Mary Magdalene at Easter … a sculpture by Mary Grant at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns (Saint Mary Magdalene, 22 July):

The hymns suggested for Saint Mary Magdalene (22 July) in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Song of Solomon 3: 1-4:

592, O Love that wilt not let me go

Psalm 42: 1-10:

607, As pants the hart for cooling streams
606, As the deer pants for the water
15, If thou but suffer God to guide thee
95, Jesu, priceless treasure
425, Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts
434, My Jesus, pierced with love of me

II Corinthians 5: 14-18:

416, Great God, your love has called us here
268, Hail, thou once-despisèd Jesus
522, In Christ there is no east or west
226, It is a thing most wonderful
634, Love divine, all loves excelling
306, O Spirit of the living God
528, The Church’s one foundation

John 20: 1-2, 11-18:

74, First of the week and finest day
460, For all your saints in glory, for all your saints at rest (verses 1, 2l, 3)
273, Led like a lamb to the slaughter
74, Light’s glittering morning bedecks the sky
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing
288, Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son
115, Thou art the Way: to thee alone
290, Walking in a garden at the close of day

Hymns that are also suitable include:

459, For all the saints who from their labours rest
461, For all thy saints, O Lord
576, I heard the voice of Jesus say
272, Jesus lives: thy terrors now
58, Morning has broken
237, O my Saviour, lifted
279, O sons and daughters, let us sing (vv. 1–3, 9)
471, Rejoice in God’s saints, today and all days
246, Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

The Second Court in Magdalene College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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